Thursday, 26 June 2008

Motivation and purpose 3

3. Current climbing purpose.

...continued. So what now?? Injured. Need time to recover. Can't push myself on hard projects. Can't train. Can't travel to boulder nor sport climb (and travelling for trad is not so inspiring, we have enough of that in this country). What can I do??

The answer is obvious: EASY TRAD of course :).

Well, maybe not too easy, but relatively gentle enough that although I might lengthen my elbow's healing process, I am hopefully not tweaking it or re-damaging it....climbing at less than 50% of my physical potential. This may not be the best approach for my elbow but it is a good approach for my sanity (the recent turbulent and mixed weather has already shown that taking a couple of trad trips previouslywhen the weather was good, with the intention of resting well now, was justified).

Okay so climbing is not supposed to be as much of a focus for me this year....but I still love it and still need some inspirations to follow and still need a vague purpose of sorts.

That purpose is now to explore (yup, you guessed it) in this country, climbing some more....errr "interesting" trad with a focus on adventure and committment rather than technical difficulty. I have this great idea that if I climb some proper choss, then I can't pull hard enough to damage my elbow cos I'd just pull holds off...:). That and just exploring slightly off-beat areas too. Adventurous trips away when possible, plenty of rest and active rest in-between.

On the subject of which - ticklist soon!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Motivation and purpose 2

2. True climbing purpose.

....continued. Is working "hard" projects for me?? It has an appeal as something different and something fresh, but is it true to me, is it where my deepest inspirations lie??

The answer: I think not. I won't dismiss it, as I like trying new aspects of climbing (within limits of common sense of course....headpointing?? *spits* - no way!). After doing very well with trad in the last couple of years, I always intended to focus more on bouldering, sport, and DWS. And seriously working projects is just an extension of that. So I'm likely to do it to some degree, but I doubt it will be much of a focus for me. Maybe in the distant future when I'm an old man and truly run out of trad and time and being able to afford fuel...

So what is the answer?? What is my climbing purpose?? I've had a good and successful focus in the last few years with trad, but that was mostly in the "see what I can do" and "finally reach the potential I've been striving for for years" vein. There must be more to it than that, something more....wide-reaching??

And there is. My true climbing purpose, and, as far as I can currently tell, my only real, driving ambition in life is:

Explore - travel to new and different places to climb in them.

This is something I realised after getting back from a South Africa climbing trip a few years back, and it still holds true today. A purpose that encompasses everything I'm inspired by with climbing: different rock types, different venues, beautiful lines, choice of routes and venues, variety in styles (this goal encompasses trad, sport, and bouldering), variety of aesthetics and situations, and absorption in being there doing something I love. It also encompasses seeing new cultures and new places, but with a focus too it rather than in an arbitrary touristy sort of way (and, as much of a comfort-zone dweller as I am, I DO like visiting new places abroad). And, too, it encompasses being with friends and companions, because often that's how trips away work, you do them with people you like and trust rather than climbing strangers.

I think being able to do that, and doing it, is all I really want in life. Even just travelling to new climbing areas in this country is important, as well as abroad.

As for the concept of working projects, well, like the concept of travelling to boulder or sport climb at least, it got put on hold, because then I, of course, I got injured....

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Motivation and purpose 1

1. A speculative climbing purpose.

Rewind a bit selecta.... Earlier this year. Getting strong. Getting more into bouldering. Getting injured but still psyched. Getting involved with a fresh focus. Getting over to Font. Getting some ideas from dedicated and determined climbers - in particular, which has some of the best explorations of personal climbing philosophy (because it IS a personal journey) I've read and should be printed as a book.

All of this got me thinking: A fresh focus....why not make it totally fresh and totally focused?? Actually put some serious effort into bouldering (and maybe sport climbing), and in particular some serious effort into working projects - projects beyond what I can currently do, projects which will push me onwards (to where? To nowhere except along the path of progression).

Although I have pushed myself in bouldering, and worked some projects, I haven't done so on a long term basis. My previous hardest problems had taken me a few hours over a couple of days (often due to skin), my recent hardest problems had taken a couple of hours or less. Which is pretty quick really. No multiple sessions over many weeks. No specific training/practising. No careful skin/rest/recovery schedules. No relentless involvement with the minutae of moves beyond my limits.

So maybe this was something to try, something different, learn something new, see what I was capable of, open up new inspirations etc etc. New inspiration like, for example, this - very cool but beyond my current limits, like plenty of harder bouldering I've seen around.

Okay, beyond my current limits but also beyond current feasible travelling. To fully work something I would need to be near it, so I looked closer to home for challenges in that category - "inspiring but too hard" - and found a few. Projects I could try, work, train for, go back to time and time again and push myself further.

But I also found myself this really for me?? this what I personally want out of climbing??...

Monday, 23 June 2008


Reminiscing over the Scotland trips... I like exploring around to new and different climbing areas (more on THAT later). I've always been inspired by Scottish outcrops ever since seeing the first pictures of Reiff, Torridon, North West Gneiss, Aberdeen sea-cliffs etc etc. And in fact become even more inspired in recent years when I've explored plenty elsewhere and started to yearn for somewhere fresh and full of choice of climbs.

I had the same prominent yearning this year - get up there, explore, climb. I often have such strong desires for new places, but also often don't think they'll actually happen due to the usual logistical hurdles: travelling, timing, weather, partners, etc. Maybe that's my pessimism and lack of organisation, but some of those factors are genuine, particularly weather for Scotland. So I didn't have the highest hopes of actually getting a decent climbing trip up there.

But now I've been! To just the right areas! Twice!

I was a bit shocked at the end of the second trip - that I'd fulfilled a Scottish desire not once but twice. It took a while to sink in that I'd actually got up there, the drive was okay, the weather was good, there were people to climb with. I'm rather chuffed with that, appreciative of the opportunity and the people involved with both trips, and more confident about future trips (my homepage is still , of course ;)).

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Natural lull.


So this weekend the longest day of the year came and went, heralding the start of summer with an impressive display of wind and rain and general unsuitability for climbing or indeed much outdoor appreciation.

Such unsuitability suits me fine. It's over 2 weeks since getting back from Scotland, and aside from a couple of very gentle evenings seconding easy routes on grit, I'm giving my elbow a good rest (along with massage and a bit of swimming). Come next weekend, that will be 3 weeks of rest, and although I'm missing proper climbing, I'm fairly happy with time off at this time.

Hmmm, time off proper blog updates too, lol. I might post more soon.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Not Wales?

More like, Wales, Not Climbing. But I can't resist recycling titles.

I was over in North Wales this weekend, more of a social visit (my presence was welcomed apparently!) than a climbing visit. Which was a bit of an odd concept especially given the weather was top notch and we were staying on a campsite approx 2 minutes drive from Gogarth, but in line with the motto of the best climbing is not climbing, it seemed an acceptable plan.

What was even more of an odd concept is that I actually had the opportunity to climb on Saturday (and later, as it happened on Sunday, but by then I'd got into the "rest weekend" spirit), but had a sudden attack of lethargy, laziness, and a lack of moral fibre. That and feeling knackered from eating crap most of the week and having no energy. Thus we drove to Gogarth, walked around for a little bit, ate a cafe lunch, and fell asleep in the sun. Hardcore.

(Bet you wouldn't catch Martin Crocker or Dave Birkett doing that :S)

Anyway, this "so close yet so far" faffery did help clarify my climbing goals and inspirations for this year, including primarily Mid-Wales and a bit of North Wales. There are several places I'm keen to explore and several routes I'm keen to do, and subject to summer monsoons etc, the time is now. I've done the mileage and exploration thing in Scotland, I've found a level my elbow can cope with, and I'm keen to get involved with specific challenges. I'll post a fresh ticklist soon.

(P.S. Have finished destroying the ivy TFFT.)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


Snailpot says:
I think you should write about the ivy in your blog

Okay... I've been having to sort out some ivy recently - got a serious ivy problem at the Fiend crib. Approximately 1/3 of the way through this epic task, I have achieved the following injuries:

1. Chipped tooth after pulling something off and hitting myself in the jaw.
2. Gashed chest after getting stabbed by a broken ivy branch.
3. Possibly damaged rib/sternum from the force of that same stabbing.
4. Cuts over my lower legs.
5. Friction burn on my shoulder.
6. Sore throat and rough lungs from breathing in dust and shit.
7. Increased pain in my elbow injury (definitely worse than most easy trad climbing).
8. Stomach ache due to the bile this stupid activity raises in me.

And can draw the following conclusions:

1. I fucking hate gardening (I knew this already though).
2. I fucking hate ivy.

It is an pointless, insidious, uncontrollable, mindlessly malevolent, destructive, offensive, house/property-raping bitch of a plant. Anyone who plants some under some deranged pretence that "it looks nice" or "it will make the property more homely" or other such bullshit, needs shooting. And the person who planted here, well they need shooting by ME. Repeatedly. In the genitals.

I wish there was some way I could exact more revenge on this stupid fucking vegetable other than tearing the whole damn lot down, chainsawing the roots to nothing, letting it all dry out and burning it to fucking ash, but I don't think there is. Not without taking more pointless, life-wasting, effort, which is partly what I hate in the first place.

Anyone know any napalm wholesalers??

Monday, 9 June 2008

Scotland again!

Bella: A group of us are going to Sheigra at the end of May - do you want to come along?

Fiend: *checks weather* Yeah!

Not quite as simple as that, but almost. There was a lot more weather-checking for a start, but in the end the forecast looked promising and indeed turned out to be even better - I think we had an hour or two of very light rain in the whole week?? Amazing. And what a pleasure to be invited along on someone's trip, I really appreciate that. Exactly what I wanted this year.

It was, again, really rather good...

Our cottage:

I don't think I need to say much more about the scenery again, it is equally beautiful and the 2 hour drive from Inverness to Sheigra is full of all types of spectacle. I was also rather fond of the fishing village / mini-port of Kinlochbervie - compared to Torridon it was very civilised, with a petrol station, hotel/pub, and well-stocked Spar with plentiful black and white poodin'. All quite reassuring as well as being in a truly delightful situation. Staying in a cottage was, of course, the lap of luxury, but split between a team of 8 also pretty reasonable. It was interesting being with a group of almost total strangers for a week, and pretty challenging socially when I had a stinking cold for the first half of the week. I'm still not entirely convinced how much I like human beings, but I got on with most people well enough. And managed to climb every day despite ailments :) - the elbow incidentally was pretty good despite the often steep climbing, apart from one heinous sandbag route that was my only failure of the trip.

Climbing in the superb Sheigra Second Geo:

The climbing this trip was great in it's variety and quality (although some of the minor crags were fairly minor, the better places more than made up for them). Of particular note was Sheigra's famous Second Geo - a singular zawn/wall that truly is nirvana for E1/2 wall climbing. A quality day there was really the whole point of the 9 1/2 drive north and indeed very good. Also, two of the longer, more epic days out were rewarding: Creag Shomarlie with it's hour drive, hour and a half walk-in and highly traditional multi-pitch mountain routes. Not my specialist subject but actually very enjoyable. And my first proper sea-stack, Am Buchaille. Again not exactly the soft-touch option for access: 1 1/2 hour walk to Sandwood Bay, 1/2 hour slog/scramble/boulder beach around the headland, 10m obligatory swim plus bag hauling, all with a reputed threat of a narrow tidal window. By far the most effort I've put into climbing 50m of easy VS choss :). In the end everything went shockingly smoothly and obviously it was a fine adventure.

Chuffed at the general scenery/climbing/weather combination:

More thoughts on all this soon.